Birdsong: A Story in Pictures, by James Sturm – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

birdsongBirdsong: A Story in Pictures, by James Sturm. Illustrated.
NYC, TOON Books, April 2016, hardcover $12.95 (60 pages).

This is my first furry book review of a little wordless picture book (9” x 6”) for pre-schoolers. Two thoughtless young children are playing warriors in a forest. The boy attacks a red bird singing in a tree. Wounded, the bird slowly flies up into a mountain, slowly enough that the children can follow it. They climb until the reach a cave inhabited by an angry hermit. The hermit magically transforms their bodies into monkeys. The children are captured and become a circus marvel: “They Read! They Write! Chimps Or Children?” Eventually (the implication is that several months pass) the circus owner gives them their freedom. They build a house in the trees. When they see another red bird, they do not disturb it.

This is a shallow but fine transformation story for beginning readers. Two children are transformed into monkeys (with long tails who live in trees, so they definitely aren’t chimps), and they are never turned back. This story is only 52 pages of art; there is an 8-page epilogue for parents “About Kamishibai”. This story is a modern picture-book version of the 1920s to 1950s kamishibai (paper theater) Japanese storytellers who would go about into neighborhoods, gather the children, and tell them short stories and myths that they would illustrate on a tiny screen. Many of the stories were based on Buddhist folklore, including stories of reincarnation and transformation. This book continues that tradition.

Birdsong: A Story in Pictures may be too simplistic for the adult furry fan, but it is an excellent first book for their children, or for any furry fans having children.


– Fred Patten